Used to keeping her eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes F1 a political melodrama, here columnist Kate Walker looks at the changes coming into force in the sport from next season...
Things done with the best of intention can go somewhat awry when they move from concept to execution. And while the bevy of new rules for Formula One in 2014 – released yesterday by the FIA after approval by the F1 Strategy Group and the Formula One Commission – were created with a view to improving the sport in a variety of ways, there are definite concerns to be had.
While the marquee news was the decision to allocate double points to the last race of the season, helping every title fight go down to the wire if possible – the real headlines should have been the introduction of a mandatory cost cap for 2015.
This is an excellent decision, and one that was becoming vital in order to safeguard the long-term future of the sport. While teams and the governing body only have six months (roughly) to hammer out the details of just how the cap will be enforced, and what the spending limit is going to be in the first year and going forwards, it cannot be denied that spending restrictions are going to benefit the sport. Smart teams might even find themselves running at a profit, instead of staring at a growing abyss of loss.
There is much still to be done, and there will be fights aplenty as negotiations get underway between the Red Bull/Mercedes/Ferrari-sized budgets and the Saubers, Caterhams, and Marussias, but it is a positive step forward that should help to ensure a healthy grid. There is also the possibility that the cost cap will introduce new teams into the sport – following the non-appearance of USF1 and the demise of HRT, the Formula One grid still has space for two new outfits.
The cost-cap is a great idea, and long overdue. But the decision to allocate double-points to the final race seems both short-sighted and unsporting. The fact that retroactively applying the new points system to past championships would change the result is irrelevant – the same could be said of the previous change to the points system which was introduced in 2010.
What matters is that this new system creates a division between the last race in the championship and all preceding events – the other races shall be left as grands prix, while the season finale becomes a grand épreuve
, a term used in early grand prix racing to denote those events with added championship weight.
There is historic precedence for setting certain races apart, but despite this the double-points will still distil the essence of the championship. No longer will all DNFs be created equal – for a driver to succumb to mechanical misfortune at the last race of the season will be double the punishment of a failure earlier on in the season.
And while it is a decision likely to have an effect on the title fight, it will also have a significant impact further down the grid, where the teams battle for no points. In 2014, with high levels of mechanical attrition expected, plus numerous penalties for an excess of power units used, a decent finish in the last race for one of the backmarkers could and would determine the fight for tenth in a single event.
Kate Walker is the editor of
GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to
Crash.net. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, she keeps an eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama.